Sikh 2020 Referendum, India Shares Responsibility

th August, to hold a rally in London and declare the referendum. The Government of India has been reacting to it and accusing Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, to be behind the exercise. The campaign has been called a waste of time, a gimmick or opportunist by many Sikhs, since it has no authorisation from any State or UN or other legitimate authority. Ironically most serious Sikh Khalistani (Sikh State) groups have opposed it.  However their response has been muted because they don’t want to be seen to be on the same side as the more aggressive opposition by the Indian government to this referendum campaign. Nevertheless, the fact that it has reached such proportion of debate in Indian press and within Sikhs is a victory of sorts for SFJ, even if nothing else may be achieved. It is also symptomatic of the frustration and resentment that has continued to fester among worldwide Sikhs since 1984. The issues that have arisen recurrently between Sikhs and the Indian State are well known. The foremost is that the holiest place of the Sikhs, Sri Darbar Sahib was entrusted to Indian protection. But in 1984, the Indian Government, under Mrs Gandhi, sent in the Indian Army to invade the most powerful and influential seat of authority in the Sikh world, thus declaring a form of war without realising it.  The attack led to calls for a separate State so that the Akal Takhat Sahib and Sri Darbar Sahib can be protected by a State of the Sikhs instead. Closely following this and for many years were the unconstitutional methods adopted by the State in eliminating large number of Sikh youth to prevent a civil uprising. Over 60000 Sikhs have been executed extrajudicially and many tortured grotesquely. Some unique methods were developed by Punjab police, now copied by dictatorships around the world. The other major incident was the organised massacres of Sikhs by the Congress party that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister in November 1984. New Delhi’s contribution to world civilisation was the invention of burning alive of people with tyres around their necks.  Over 4000 Sikhs were massacred with iron bars, long knives, axes and burning alive in a free orgy of violence over four days. The police looked the other way and the Army, stationed only half an hour’s distance away, remained in its barracks. The Sikhs of Punjab responded to the attack on Darbar Sahib by executing Mrs Gandhi, the Chief of Army (Gen Vaidya) who ordered the attack and the Chief Minister (Beant Singh) who gave the police carte blanc unconstitutional powers to kill as many political activists as it could. The Sikhs of Delhi put their trust in the Indian judicial system. 34 years later they have been fed 11 Commissions of Enquiry but no incarceration of any senior Congress member. It should not surprise any analyst why 34 years after 1984, resentment and hurt festers below the surface among Sikhs, leaving the community susceptible to those who imagine themselves as wannabe messiahs on a mission to lead Sikhs to freedom from this pain or worse prey to political and economic opportunists. Even the Akali Dal regularly exploits Sikh issues when in opposition but goes quiet when in power. However it is simplistic for victimhood within Sikhs to see Hindu India as a hostile, cruel inhuman country and hope for justice and restoration of mutual respect. The Indians themselves are imprisoned in a Kafkesque nightmare from which they don’t know how to step out.  Physical colonialism came to an end in 1947 in India but the institutions and political concepts of colonialism remain intact even 70 years after the British transferred power. [caption id="attachment_29480" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Presidents of India have been trapped in ceremonies left by the British.[/caption] India is a colonial edifice, to the last brick of its foundation. All modern Indian institutions were established by the British to govern ‘over Indians’ and protect themselves from the natives or promote interests of the occupying colonialists. Whether it is the constitution founded on the 1935 Act which the British enacted to rule ‘over’ Indians with some punitive accountability to ‘natives’, or the police which was to keep the natives in check while applying different rules for the Sahibs, or the Army which was orientated to protect the British from Indian mutinees and rebellions, to the legal system which was meant to usurp indigenous value systems and implant British Victorian values and system of rule or whether it is the civil service which was established to administrate Indians on behalf of the British. Nothing has changed in the founding frameworks of these institutions. The Indian State follows the blue print left by the British colonialists to rule India as conquerors. The British didn’t leave behind a repair manual nor sent revision sheets or updates, and so to date Indians haven’t found a way to solve any of the regional or cultural conflicts. Strengthening colonial era laws on detention, making colonial era torture methods even more painful and sending in the Army to protect the ‘rulers’ against the ‘natives’ is a recurring pattern of response to challenges, where politics should seek solutions instead. The political class behaves like managers. The institutional framework of British India was enacted for the British in India to act as managers on behalf of the Crown or rather British Parliament. They were not meant to govern. Government was in UK. [caption id="attachment_29482" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The Viceroy’s Carriage pre-1947. Little has changed except the logos.[/caption] Unfortunately the Indian political class acts as managers and has been managing the edifice since 1947 waiting for guidance from some mythical power above it.  India has been in management mode since 1947. 70 years later it has yet to start governing and take bold decisions, such as a new contract with the people, change of colonial era laws, overhaul of an imperialist constitution, and instil in the army that it is there to protect the borders, not kill Indian citizens etc. This is the intractable dynamics in which Sikhs and the Indians are locked in. The Sikhs are hoping India will give justice. Individually Indians weep when told about stories, the massacres, the tortures etc, but Indians as the State simply don’t know how to untangle the shackles of colonialism and transfer that empathy with minorities into solutions. Like all such scenarios, in which those in power are powerless, there is recourse to diversion such as calling secessionists as ‘dreaded terrorists’ and blaming others, such as ISI for troubles of India’s own inadequacies. The Sikhs like some other regional minorities do not expect Congress to address the issues that divide them from the State. Congress after all was the Government that attacked Sri Darbar Sahib. Congress is in fact the penultimate party of WOGS if there is such a creature. Since 1947 it has been managing a failed colonial mission, to change Indians into a poor image of European society.

RSS vision is to make India a Hindu Rahstra.

  There was hope when Modi came to power that he will bring in a fresh and bold approach to solving issues such as those of the Sikhs. But his own party has been riddled with conceptual ideologies which have little to do with Indian civilisation. The identity Hindu and the name of the country, Hindustan, was given by Muslim invaders. Both RSS and the BJP have internalised these as missions, to make India a Hindu State and take pride in calling it Hindustan. Pakistani Muslims must be smug that their forefathers gave identity both to the people and the country. If the Congress is peddling a bastardised ideology developed from nineteenth century European political theories calling it Indian secularism (if ever there was a word more nonsense), the BJP and RSS are hell bent on promoting concepts inherited from radical Islam strongly similar to Hassan al-Banna’s ideas of Muslim Brotherhood packaged in the nomenclature given by Muslim invaders, Hindu and Hindustan. The trouble is that neither the Sikhs nor the Indians have introspection of their situation. Neither seems to be aware of the time warp they remain in, frozen in 1947. The Indians are caught in a Goldfish bowl, unable to break through it. The Sikhs expect empathy and solutions that the colonial  institutional framework of post colonial India is not constructed for, hence unable to deliver. This is why 34 years after 1984, Sikhs cannot make sense of the attack on Sri Darbar Sahib, the extra-judicial executions, the massacres of Sikhs in Delhi and this is also why India has not been able to move an inch forward towards addressing the resentment festering within Sikhs. Until one or the other side understands the dilemma and weakness of the other and starts to help the other come out if its crises, the Sikhs will continue to be victims of excitable gimmick like rallying calls such as Referendum 2020 and India will continue to make enemies of its own people with the political class acting as managers of an edifice and the Army gingerly killing the very people it is meant to protect. Neither side knows how to move forward.]]>

Non-BJP CMs Hold a Message for 2019 Polls

By Vipin Pubby The constitutional crisis in the wake of recent dharna by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his senior ministers inside the Delhi Raj Niwas, and the support lent by four non-BJP and non-Congress chief ministers, has led to an unprecedented situation and is a significant turn on way to the next general elections. While Kejriwal claims that the IAS officers deputed to the Delhi government are on ‘strike’, the Lt Governor of Delhi as well as IAS officers association refute the claim. Aam Aadmi Party Government is also demanding full statehood for Delhi. The stand-off has paralysed the functioning of the state government and has raised questions on the functioning of the federal system. The current crisis has its genesis in the alleged roughing up of the chief secretary by supporters of AAP when he was called late in the evening for a meeting. The officers had lodged a protest and it may be possible that some of them may have adopted go-slow approach. Kejriwal has alleged that the officers don’t take calls, abstain from meetings and keep sitting on files. He pointed out that the problem has its roots in a central government order in 2015 which took away the powers of the Delhi government to transfer and post IAS officers in Delhi. AAP government had been having frequent run-ins with the Lt Governors and IAS officers posted with the state government. The Centre has also taken away some other powers of the Delhi government, including the functioning of the police. One of the major causes for the peculiar problems with Delhi government is that Delhi is not a full-fledged state. Making a submission in Supreme Court the government had said recently that Delhi enjoyed “special status” among Union Territories under the Constitution but that did not make it a state. Article 239AA of the Constitution, which deals with power and status of Delhi government, is silent on awarding co-extensive executive and legislative powers to the Delhi government. The Centre has taken the stand that Delhi government was empowered to take care of daily utilities of the national capital but the real administrative powers were vested with the Centre and the President. There was not much of a problem till the central as well as the Delhi government was run by the same political party or coalition like the UPA for a decade before the advent of the Modi government. It is obvious that the humiliating defeat suffered by BJP in Delhi, a year after the Modi wave swept most parts of the country, had set up stage for a perpetual stand-off between the Centre and the Delhi government. Now the joining of hands by the non-BJP and non-Congress chief ministers to back their counterpart in Delhi has significantly added muscle to the demands of AAP government. The four chief ministers, Mamata Banerjee from West Bengal, M Kumaraswamy from Karnataka, Chandrababu Naidu from Andhra Pradesh and Pinarayi Vijayan from Kerala, have also warned the Centre against undue interference in the affairs of the states. Each one of them nurses some grouse or the other over meddling in state affairs by the Centre. These include devolution of funds, allocation of projects, putting conditions on utilisation of funds under various schemes and seeking to impose schemes not suited for all states. The issue is likely to be taken up more vociferously by non-BJP CMs in the run up to the general elections. Their joining hands with Kejriwal, who has successfully changed the agenda for the next elections in Delhi, is also of concern to the Congress. The party had been critical of Kejriwal’s moves and considers itself as its main political rival. It has now been isolated with the non-BJP parties joining hands and emergence of Mamata Banerjee as head of the third front. It shall force the Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi to re-think its strategy if it has to be part of a non-BJP alliance. Significantly, the four CMs who came in support of Kejriwal included one from the Left Front which is otherwise daggers drawn with Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. With the growing resentment against the NDA government, and its declining performance in Assembly and Lok Sabha by-elections, a political storm is building up before the next general elections. It would be vital how the alliance partners get along in spite of the differences. Similarly the BJP shall have to learn to deal better with its alliance partners. Telugu Desam Party has already pulled out of the NDA and the Shiv Sena has been embarrassing the BJP on various issues. Even the Shiromani Akali Dal is not feeling comfortable with ‘arbitrary’ decisions being taken by the BJP. This has evidently prompted BJP chief Amit Shah to rebuild bridges with alliance partners. He had been meeting leaders of other alliance partners and is already strategising for the next elections. The non-BJP alliance, however, lacks a charismatic leader who could lead the 20-odd parties including the Congress which still believes that there is no alternative to it for leadership. It shall have to re-strategise its role if it is not able to take all non-BJP parties along.]]>

Niyat & Vikas: BJP shorts the 2019 campaign circuit

It was the winter of 2016 when a Supreme Court bench headed by the now Chief Justice directed that the national anthem be played before films are screened in cinemas across the nation. The purpose of the order, the court said, was to instill “committed patriotism and nationalism” and “reflect love and respect for the motherland”.  That order was softened by the court in a week; by January this year the playing of the 52-second anthem was made optional for cinema owners, and an inter-ministerial panel is now examining the entire issue.

All that may be decided soon enough but the big-screen summer of 2018 has seen another pre-feature insertion bundled with the solemnity of the national anthem: short films that showcase the achievements of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government. You could be settling down with popcorn and a fizzy drink to watch Jurassic World or even Veere di Wedding, but these ‘shorts’ will have to be seen in the darkened theatre when the doors have been closed.

These ‘shorts’ are part of the government’s fourth year celebrations; each highlights a specific initiative of the government, like Swachh Bharat or Jan Dhan Yojana, or a sectoral thrust area like agriculture or road-building. All are available on, a part of, a website launched by the government in July 2014 to engage with citizens.

Setting the Stage  

About a minute long each, these are slickly made, with production values far better than is usual in the standard chest-thumping of Indian politics. Modi is the thread that ties all together, appearing in each as the spearhead of all good things coming our nation’s way.

The headline is the same across shorts: Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas. This is the slogan the Bharatiya Janata Party has settled on to ride into the battle of 2019.

It sounds pretty tame at first, but it may just turn the trick that ‘India Shining’ of 2004 could not. The slogan starts with a subliminal anti-Congress message, encapsulating in two words the anti-corruption theme of the BJP’s 2014 campaign. Saaf Niyat: Clean Intent.

Sahi Vikas—Right Development— follows, like an unfinished story, more a continuum of a higher duty than the preceding terse statement of intent, but complementing it like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

The message common to every short: What couldn’t be done in decades has been achieved in four years. As the year rolls by, this will have been drilled and drilled and drilled yet again into India’s crores of cinema-going heads.

Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas may not have the gale force of Indira Gandhi’s punchy and catchy ‘Garibi Hatao’ of 1980, but it does make the BJP’s ‘Achhe Din’ of 2014 a similarly distant memory. It turns the page.

On the negative side, it’s reminiscent of the ‘India Shining’ that put the BJP down for the count in the big surprise of 2004. And spookily so. The economy was spooling into higher gear then, India had gone nuclear, and then sorted out Pakistan in a short but vicious war. But the BJP lost.

In any case, the BJP is off the blocks with a well-crafted message of development and promise of more to come. The Opposition’s order of battle will be in place only when battle is joined; their message till then can only be ‘Oust Modi’.

Built into all this is the possibility of general elections being called early, this winter, with due state elections in BJP-held Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Congress-held Mizoram added to the mix. Then, there’s buzz of the Kejriwal-BJP war endgaming into a climactic dismissal of the Delhi government soon, and recent events in the Capital only strengthen such speculation. On Tuesday, Jammu and Kashmir was added as a possibility as the BJP broke up with its coalition partner, the Peoples Democratic Party.

Saaf Niyat may turn out to be highly miscible with the BJP’s desire to hold simultaneous national and state elections after all. And that would be Sahi Vikas as far as the ruling NDA is concerned.


Beyond Kairana: Not a pretty picture for BJP

Maharashtra, two Lok Sabha seats were fought for. Once rivals Congress and Nationalist Congress Party fought as a team and once brothers in saffron BJP and Shiv Sena fought each other, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party putting up as candidate the son of the MP whose death necessitated the bypoll in Palghar. The BJP took this seat, but by a winning margin of about 30,000 votes as opposed to almost 300,000 in the 2014 election. The other Maharashtra seat was Bhandara-Gondiya, in the saffron-friendly Vidarbha region. The BJP lost the seat, and face. It lost to the NCP by a good 50,000-odd votes. In 2014, the BJP candidate Nana Patole—whose defection to the Congress over what he called PM Modi’s neglect of farmer’s issues—had won by three times that margin. The wave is gone, and more importantly, the Shiv Sena who the BJP calls its oldest ally has had its claws out for Big Brother through the campaign, and now after it even as the larger party is articulating placatory whimpers. Maharashtra gave the BJP-SS partnership 41 of its 48 Lok Sabha seats last time, and a resurgent Congress-NCP partnership in the absence of a Modi wave is bad news indeed for the BJP. Kneeling before Uddhav may well be the best-case scenario for the BJP in next year’s big one, and even that may not help much. The one seat from Nagaland went to BJP ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, as expected—one of the truisms of Indian politics is that Northeast voters tend to back the ruling party at the Centre in bypolls. The BJP has made great inroads in the Northeast region in recent years—it rules in six of the ‘seven sisters’ now—but it’s also true even a vigorous performance here in 2019 will not make much impact on the big numbers of the next Lok Sabha election.The seven states put together have as many seats as Rajasthan alone. Kairana was the big loss, a united Opposition defeating the BJP with voters cutting across caste and religious lines to back the challenger. Also, it cannot be overlooked that Prime Minister Modi held a massive roadshow in a nearby district to showcase a spanking new highway, and followed it up the same day— one day before the vote in Kairana—with a rally in Baghpat where he reached to sugarcane farmers. He got the issue right, for it was ‘ganna over Jinnah’ in the end, only voters didn’t expect the BJP to address the issue. Shades of Karnataka in Kairana; Modi uping his rallies from 15 to 21 didn’t turn the southern state around, and Baghpat didn’t do the trick either. The new battle order that is coming up has even resurrected Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal that got wiped out from its western Uttar Pradesh stronghold last time. It is also significant to note that Ajit’s father, and once prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh was the architect of the Hindu-Muslim peace and amity that sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh once exemplified. That peace was missing in the 2014 Lok Sabha election: polarisation may have crossed its expiration date in the the largest arena of 2019 . The Assembly seats The BJP got just one—Tharali in Uttarakhand—in a set that was sprinkled pretty representatively across the nation. Noteworthy here is desperately thin margin of victory—about 2,000 votes—in what has been traditionally regarded as a saffron state since it was created about two decades ago by an NDA government. Uttarakhand isn’t in the BJP bag either for 2019. In Punjab, the seat of Shahkot was taken from the Akali Dal by the Congress. Punjab has been regarded as a bellwether state, and the Congress victory in the 2017 Assembly elections as the backdrop of the latest contest has a strong message for the BJP. Significantly, the Aam Aadmi Party candidate came third, losing his deposit and even the vote in his native village in the process. The Akali Dal is down for the count, and AAP has slid out of the reckoning. More worrisome for the BJP is that Haryana’s simmering peasantry appears set to follow the Punjab example, with both Congress and the Chautala clan resurgent in the agricultural state. That’s 23 Lok Sabha seats from the two agrarian neighbour states for 2019 the BJP needs to worry about. In West Bengal, Didi’s Trinamool took the Maheshtala seat by over a chunky 60,000-vote margin. The BJP came second but that’s just a repeat of what has been happening in the state despite a focussed saffron effort, a noticeable increase in its popular support but one that’s not enough to shake Mamata Banerjee. Didi’s in the saddle, and she looks set to ride unscathed through the 2019 battle. Jokihat in Bihar was another upset, Lalu’s Rashtriya Janata Dal winning this battle of prestige and stamping another question mark on Nitish Kumar’s swinging politics. This is the third straight loss for Nitish after he dumped the RJD and Congress in July 2017 to walk out of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) that had so comprehensively won the 2015 Assembly elections, Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanbad Assembly bypolls the other two that the RJD took. Given the RJD’s incredible performance in 2015—it won 81 of the 101 seats it contested—and the way its fortunes remain on the up, the future isn’t looking too bright for either Nitish’s Janata Dal (United) or the BJP. And Nitish may well be out of swinging room. Bihar could be where this unlikeliest of BJP allies sinks with the saffron party in 2019. Ampati in Meghalaya brought back memories of Karnataka again, as Congress candidate Miani D Shira, daughter of former chief minister Mukul Sangma defeated Clement G Momin of the National People’s Party. With 21 legislators, the Congress is now the single largest party in the state Assembly, and can, following the Karnataka model, stake claim to form the government. The NPP has 20 seats and the support of 15 other MLAs, including two from the BJP. In Karnataka, fresh from the churn of the recent Assembly elections and the hurly-burly of government formation, the Congress thumbed its nose at the BJP, winning the RR Nagar bypoll with 40,000 votes to spare. If not entirely expected, the other results were not as surprising. They are: * Chengannur, Kerala: CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front’s Saji Cheriyan beat Congress as well as BJP candidates. * Noorpur, Uttar Pradesh: Samajwadi Party candidate Naeemul Hasan, supported by the Congress, BSP and AAP beat the BJP candidate by 6,000-odd votes, a relatively slim margin but yet another winner for a combined Opposition. * Silli and Gomia, Jharkhand: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) retained both seats. * Palus Kadegaon, Maharashtra: Congress candidate Vishwajeet Patangrao Kadam, the son of sitting MLA Patangrao Kadam whose death neccessitated the poll, won the seat uncontested. — The author tweets @NSDahiya]]>